Web Code Monkey & 404 error page

This would describe much of my work over the last few weeks. Html code more specifically. I’ve had a searchable website since 2002, and a retrospective glance leaves me with a feeling that I reinvented the wheel in some respects. But, the wheel was very hard to find back then, which is a telling tale of our web-based beginnings.

Even after all these years, I finally made a custom 404 error page, it has remained elusive until now. I’d recommend everyone managing a site to do that. It is relatively easy and you can follow some very simple directions here. This is the page I made which you will see for any string of text following the domain URL, that is not actually a real page in the directory: http://alaskaphotographics.com/xyz

Back to the website in general. I would do so many things differently now, but I feel the same way about the house I built too. All in all, my website–which was a risk at the time–has proved a vital part of my photo livelihood. I’m a little married to the choices made long ago, and have considered a complete redesign and rebuild of the back-end code of my sight. Such a thought (which I would not perform myself by the way) has proved too formidable at the moment, especially when I remind myself that I’m a photographer!

The blending of design, functionality, usability and search engine optimization is a finicky blend, and ultimately a compromise in some measure. Figuring out Search Engine Optimization and Organic search results placement is a pretty greasy marble. I’ve scoured all the general basics and experimented plenty. Some things have worked, some have not. There is always room for improvement in that area.

I’ve watched the continued development of many “stock photo website programs” but I always seem to want those customized options that are not available in the template version. A few important things that I’ve designed into my site are as follows:

  • Expandable side bar search panel which highlights and expands your search choice (This has been a tough one to work with, I can’t say it is prefect, but I find it hard to give up. It is not created automatically from the image fields or categories, which has its pros and cons.)
  • zip compression on the fly of the side-bar search which facilitates faster load times
  • An option for displaying larger thumbs
  • Grouping similar images into a stack (it de-clutters the search results but gives designers many options to view from the same scene.)
  • Horizontals and Verticals of the same scene will show up next to each other.
  • Displaying all the similars when a thumbnail is clicked on to view the main photo
  • <div> based thumbs per page, which lets the search results images fill your entire monitor
  • Setting privileges for clients to download non-watermarked files both individually, and for an entire lightbox
  • Uploading a .txt file of metadata to the web site. (This is a huge one. I can change all the caption, keyword, etc., information of my entire image database in 10 minutes by uploading a text metadata file)
  • Print a lightbox feature that includes thumbnails and caption information.
  • White border around images in lightbox
  • Ability to rank images so they appear in a controlled manner other than date or file number.

My wish list is even longer, but here are a few:

  • An entirely revamped shopping cart with more flexibility
  • Continuity between static and dynamic pages
  • Better Login/User registration interface
  • Mouse over previews which include similars.
  • Did I mention 1st place rankings in Google?
  • A code geek sitting right next to me in my office, on demand, real time.

Many of my colleagues have fantastic web sites, with good and functional integration. Three cheers to you all, I know the amount of work it takes to make it happen. If you are just starting out, study the web, get organized, be accurate and consistent with your keywords and other IPTC field entries.

Samuel Johnson got it right when he wrote “Writing without effort, in general, results in reading without pleasure” The same principle stands for websites.

Screen capture of my website showing 300 pixel big thumbnails in a tags which expand according to the size of the monitor.

Screen capture of my website showing 300 pixel big thumbnails in <div> tags which expand according to the size of the monitor. The white border around some tell you that they are in an existing lightbox. This is the image display on a 30" monitor.

Screen capture of my website showing 190 pixel thumbnails in a tags which expand according to the size of the monitor.

Screen capture of my website showing 190 pixel thumbnails in <div> tags which expand according to the size of the monitor. The white border around the thumbnail signifies that it is in the current lightbox. This is the image display on a 30" monitor